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The Political Economy of International Trade

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1 The Political Economy of International Trade
Chapter 6 The Political Economy of International Trade

2 Introduction Free trade refers to a situation where a government does not attempt to restrict what its citizens can buy from another country or what they can sell to another country While many nations are nominally committed to free trade, they tend to intervene in international trade to protect the interests of politically important groups

3 Instruments of Trade Policy
Question: How do governments intervene in international trade? There are seven main instruments of trade policy Tariffs Subsidies Import quotas Voluntary export restraints Local content requirements Antidumping policies Administrative policies

4 Tariffs A tariff is a tax levied on imports that effectively raises the cost of imported products relative to domestic products Specific tariffs are levied as a fixed charge for each unit of a good imported Ad valorem tariffs are levied as a proportion of the value of the imported good

5 Tariffs Question: Why do governments impose tariffs? Tariffs
increase government revenues provide protection to domestic producers against foreign competitors by increasing the cost of imported foreign goods force consumers to pay more for certain imports Tariffs are pro-producer and anti-consumer, and tariffs reduce the overall efficiency of the world economy

6 Subsidies A subsidy is a government payment to a domestic producer
Subsidies help domestic producers compete against low-cost foreign imports gain export markets Consumers typically absorb the costs of subsidies

7 Import Quotas and Voluntary Export Restraints
An import quota is a direct restriction on the quantity of some good that may be imported into a country Tariff rate quotas are a hybrid of a quota and a tariff where a lower tariff is applied to imports within the quota than to those over the quota Voluntary export restraints are quotas on trade imposed by the exporting country, typically at the request of the importing country’s government A quota rent is the extra profit that producers make when supply is artificially limited by an import quota

8 Import Quotas and Voluntary Export Restraints
Question: Who benefits from import quotas and voluntary export restraints? Import quotas and voluntary export restraints benefit domestic producers by limiting import competition, but they raise the prices of imported goods for consumers

9 Local Content Requirements
A local content requirement demands that some specific fraction of a good be produced domestically The requirement can be in physical terms or in value terms Local content requirements benefit domestic producers and jobs, but consumers face higher prices

10 Administrative Policies
Administrative trade polices are bureaucratic rules that are designed to make it difficult for imports to enter a country These polices hurt consumers by denying access to possibly superior foreign products

11 Administrative Policies
Dumping is selling goods in a foreign market below their cost of production, or selling goods in a foreign market at below their “fair” market value It can be a way for firms to unload excess production in foreign markets Some dumping may be predatory behavior to drive indigenous competitors out of that market, and later raising prices and earning substantial profits

12 Administrative Policies
Antidumping polices are designed to punish foreign firms that engage in dumping The goal is to protect domestic producers from “unfair” foreign competition U.S. firms that believe a foreign firm is dumping can file a complaint with the government If the complaint has merit, antidumping duties, also known as countervailing duties may be imposed

13 The Case for Government Intervention
Question: Why do governments intervene in trade? There are two types of arguments Political arguments - protecting the interests of certain groups within a nation (normally producers), often at the expense of other groups (normally consumers) Economic arguments - boosting the overall wealth of a nation (to the benefit of all, both producers and consumers)

14 Political Arguments for Intervention
Political arguments for government intervention include protecting jobs protecting industries deemed important for national security retaliating to unfair foreign competition protecting consumers from “dangerous” products furthering the goals of foreign policy protecting the human rights of individuals in exporting countries Country Focus: Trade in Hormone-Treated Beef Summary This feature describes the trade battle between the United States and the European Union over beef from cattle that have been given growth hormones. It outlines the basic issues that led to the dispute, and shows how the World Trade Organization has treated the case. Suggested Discussion Questions 1. Why is the European Union so concerned about beef from cattle that have been given growth hormones? Discussion Points: Some students may argue that the European Union’s ban on growth hormones in cattle was little more than a thinly veiled form of protectionism. Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, which also use the hormones in their cattle industry, were also affected by the ban. The European Union claimed that it was merely protecting the health of its citizens, however studies showed that the hormones posed no health issues for people. 2. Why did the WTO rule against the European Union? Discussion Points: The World Trade Organization ruled against the European Union stating that the European Union’s ban on imported hormone treated beef had no scientific justification. Even so, the European Union refused to lift the ban, which had strong public support, and in the end, the European Union was assessed punitive tariffs. The European Union held on to its principles though, and as of 2008, continued to maintain its restrictions on hormone treated beef despite the resulting punitive tariffs. Teaching Tip: The WTO maintains a site for students. Go to { and click on the students icon to search the site, research countries, and even see a list of internships that are available at the WTO.

15 Economic Arguments for Intervention
Economic arguments for government intervention in international trade include Infant industry argument Strategic trade policy

16 Economic Arguments for Intervention
1. Infant Industry Argument Infant industry argument - an industry should be protected until it can develop and be viable and competitive internationally This has been accepted as a justification for temporary trade restrictions under the WTO Critics argue it is useless unless it makes the industry more efficient if a country has the potential to develop a viable competitive position, its firms should be capable of raising necessary funds

17 Economic Arguments for Intervention
2. Strategic Trade Policy Strategic trade policy - there may be important first mover advantages, governments can help firms from their countries attain these advantages Strategic trade policy - governments can help firms overcome barriers to entry into industries where foreign firms have an initial advantage

18 The Revised Case for Free Trade
New trade theorists believe government intervention in international trade is justified Classic trade theorists disagree Some new trade theorists believe that strategic trade theory is appealing in theory, but it may not be workable in practice Two situations where restrictions on trade may be inappropriate Retaliation Domestic Policies

19 Retaliation and War Strategic trade policies aimed at establishing domestic firms in a dominant position in a global industry are beggar-thy-neighbor policies that boost national income at the expense of other countries A country that attempts to use such policies will probably provoke retaliation A trade war could leave both countries worse off

20 Domestic Policies Governments can be influenced by special interest
A government’s decision to intervene in a market may appease a certain group, but not necessarily the support the interests of the country as a whole

21 Development of the World Trading System
Since World War II, an international trading framework has evolved to govern world trade In its first fifty years, the framework was known as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Since 1995, the framework has been known as the World Trade Organization (WTO)

22 From Smith to the Great Depression
Up until the Great Depression of the 1930s, most countries had some degree of protectionism In 1930, the U.S. enacted the Smoot-Hawley Act, which created significant import tariffs on foreign goods Other nations took similar steps and as the depression deepened, world trade fell further

23 1947-1979: GATT, Trade Liberalization, and Economic Growth
After WWII, the U.S. and other nations realized the value of freer trade, and established the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947 The approach of GATT (a multilateral agreement to liberalize trade) was to gradually eliminate barriers to trade GATT’s membership grew from 19 to more than 120 nations Tariff reduction was spread over eight rounds of negotiation GATT regulations were enforce by a mutual monitoring system

24 1980-1993: Protectionist Trends
The world trading system came under strain during the 1980s and early 1990s because Japan’s economic success strained what had been more equal trading patterns Persistent trade deficits by the U.S caused significant problems in some industries and political problems for the government Many countries found that although GATT limited the use of tariffs, there were many other forms of intervention that had the same effect that did not technically violate GATT

25 The Uruguay Round and the World Trade Organization
The Uruguay Round (1986) focused on 1. Services and Intellectual Property Trade issues related to services and intellectual property and agriculture were emphasized 2. The World Trade Organization The WTO was established as a more effective policeman of the global trade rules The WTO encompassed GATT and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

26 The Future of the WTO: Unresolved Issues and the Doha Round
The WTO is currently focusing on 1. Anti-dumping policies 2. Protectionism in agriculture 3. Protecting intellectual property 4. Market access for nonagricultural goods and services 5. A new round of talks: Doha

27 Implications for Managers
Question: Why should international managers care about the political economy of free trade or about the relative merits of arguments for free trade and protectionism? Trade barriers impact firm strategy Firms can play a role in promoting free trade or trade barriers

28 Trade Barriers and Firm Strategy
Trade theory suggests why dispersing production activities globally can be beneficial However, trade barriers may limit a firm’s ability to do so Raise the cost of exporting Quotas limit exports Firms may have to locate production activities within a country to meet local content regulations The threat of future trade barriers can influence firm strategy All of these can raise costs above what they may have been in a world of free trade

29 Policy Implications International firms have an incentive to lobby for free trade, and keep protectionist pressures from causing them to have to change strategies While there may be short run benefits to having government protection in some situations, in the long run these can backfire and other governments can retaliate making it more difficult to construct a globally dispersed production system

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